Opinion: DSNY and what testing means

Photo by Mike Racioppo

For a political party, it’s essential to win elections and implement policies that are popular and allow you to keep winning elections. I am a member of the Democratic Party. Historically, my party has operated on the belief that government can work to the benefit of people. But beliefs, actions, and electoral results are different things. 

Means testing” — in nearly all forms — is a political and policy loser. Excluding people perpetuates an “us against them” mentality. For that reason, it is best that more programs cover everyone instead of excluding folks based on arbitrary lines in the sand. Yes, someone may do well and some may take advantage of the system, but  nobody is left behind and  nobody is so resentful that they storm the US Capitol.

Naturally, it helps the politicians’ fortunes if people like them, but few will get to know an elected official personally or even find time to reach out. For example, it’s tough to find someone who likes Mayor Bill de Blasio in his waning days in office. At the same time, would anyone with a child entering Pre-K trade their child’s guaranteed spot in class — due to the de Blasio administration’s most significant achievement — for a mayor who does little but is never late to a meeting?

This universality reinforces why “means testing” is a loser. Sure, some people can afford such programs but they don’t feel less important. If UPre-K didn’t include everyone, you’d find mayoral candidates looking to shortchange the program.  Instead, you’ll find candidates looking to fully implement U3K.

This week, we have had study in working toward a common goal. With nearly two feet of snow falling on Monday and Tuesday, and as I’m writing this on Wednesday, we’ve nearly returned to pre-pandemic normal. School buildings are open, roads are cleared, and we are again on the move. Yes, there are exceptions to this where streets are still snowed in, but in a city of over 8 million people, it’s an incredible job and that job is thanks to government action. One can always nitpick problems within Sanitation Department (DSNY), but we should start with at least maintaining funding and avoiding making any more cuts.

The most effective public policies and services are not only more important than the individual who may have initially implemented them, but they outlast them and you may not even notice they’re there — the way great referees or umpires aren’t part of a game’s story. You may not think of DSNY often but you’d sure as hell know if their employees stopped doing their job, or if they only plowed streets based on income levels, just the way parents would notice if UPK were gone or if they were suddenly handed a tuition bill.

Keep that in mind later this year when de Blasio is gone and we vote for a successor. Pick wisely.